The World Series begins (at last) on Wednesday. Both teams can use a designated hitter in the games in Boston — games 1 and 2, and games 6 and 7, if necessary. So here’s a quick, stats-centric overview of the DH in the World Series.

 

History

The designated hitter was introduced to the World Series in 1976. Dan Driessen was the first to come to bat as a DH in the Series, but on the second pitch, Tony Perez was thrown out stealing — so the first actual plate appearance for a DH went to Lou Piniella, who doubled and scored. Driessen had to settle for the first home run and RBI by a Series DH, in game 3.

At first, the DH was allowed in alternating years, namely, the 1976, ’78, ’80, ’82 and ’84 Series. Since 1986, the DH has been available each year in games hosted by the AL club. Through 2012, 102 men have batted as a DH in the World Series.

 

Some Records

Single-game records:

  • 1 HR (20 players, led by Ryan Klesko’s 3 times)
  • 6 RBI (Hideki Matsui, 2009)
  • 3 runs (Paul Molitor, 1993, and Dane Iorg, 1982)
  • 3 hits (shared by 8 players, Matsui the last)
  • 8 total bases (Molitor, 1993)
  • 2 stolen bases ( Terry Pendleton, 1987)

One-Series records:

  • 3 HRs (Klesko, 1995)
  • 8 RBI (Reggie Jackson, 1978)
  • 9 hits (Jackson, ’78; Hal McRae, 1980; Dane Iorg, 1982)

Those one-Series records are also the career records for those stats. The career record for games is 9, by Lonnie Smith (1980, ’82, ’91 and ’92), with no one else over 7. Among the regular-season leaders in DH games:

  • Harold Baines reprised that role in 2 WS games (1990 with Oakland);
  • David Ortiz has 4 WS games at DH (BoSox swept the 2004 and ’07 Series; he played 1B the other 4 games);
  • Hal McRae had 6 Series game at DH, all in 1980 (9 for 24, 3 doubles); and
  • Edgar Martinez … sigh … well, you know.

 

Batting Order, Production, Wins & Losses

On average, the AL DH has batted 5th, the NL 6th. (The precise averages are 5.03 and 6.03.) The AL DH has been much more likely to bat in the top of the order, while the NL has often buried its DH:

  • DH batting 3rd or 4th: AL 37 games, NL 6 games.
  • DH batting 1st through 4th: AL 41 games, NL 15 games.
  • DH batting 8th or 9th: AL 0 games, NL 21 games.

This suggests that the NL clubs often feel disadvantaged when the DH is in play, and the AL does hold a commanding 59-39 edge in those games. Yet the composite stats for the two groups are similar:

  • AL — .235 BA … .321 OBP … .398 SLG … .719 OPS … 13 HRs, 51 RBI, 52 Runs
  • NL — .246 BA … .316 OBP … .399 SLG … .715 OPS … 12 HRs, 43 RBI, 44 Runs

A few more singles for the NL, a few more walks and HBP for the AL. The AL’s edge in runs and RBI is probably just a function of the batting order.

By the way, the slash rates for both DH groups are worse than the position-player BA, OBP and OPS in the World Series that have featured the DH:

  • DH — .241 BA … .318 OBP … .399 SLG … .717 SLG
  • Pos. — .254 BA … .329 OBP … .398 SLG … .727 OPS.

 

Game Impact via Win Probability Added

Although both leagues’s DHs have similar slash stats, and the AL has won 60% of those games, the NL has a solid edge in Win Probability Added from the DH, by 0.12 to minus-0.60. That projects to 0.19 vs. minus-0.96 for a full season — comparable to Adam Lind vs. Josh Willingham this year.

In high-leverage situations, the NL has rung up 0.65 WPA in 84 PAs, the AL minus-0.35 WPA in 87 PAs. The NL owns 5 of the top 6 individual high-leverage events, topped by these three:

  • Kurt Bevacqua’s lead-changing 3-run HR in game 2 of the 1984 Series (0.35 WPA).
  • Erubiel Durazo’s tie-breaking double in the 8th inning of game 4 of the 2001 Series (0.29 WPA).
  • Lonnie Smith’s grand slam off Jack Morris that blew open game 5 of the 1992 Series (0.27 WPA). In that same Series, Smith also had the 6th-biggest hi-lev event, a go-ahead hit in the 8th inning of game 3.

The AL’s best high-leverage moment from a DH was in 1978, game 2, Reggie Jackson’s 2-run double to open the scoring in the 3rd inning (0.23 WPA). The AL owns both DH walk-off events, both singles — by Gene Larkin, ending the 1991 Series, and by Eddie Murray, sealing Cleveland’s first WS game win since 1948, in 1995 game 3. But because of the base/out situations, both tallied modest WPA.

 

Odds & Ends

Ryan Klesko is the only DH to homer in two losses, games 3 and 5 in ’95.

Two Series with great imbalance in DH performance:

  • 1982 — St. Louis DHs (led by Dane Iorg) went 12 for 28 with 5 extra-base hits, while Milwaukee’s platoon of Don Money and Roy Howell went 3 for 24 with a double. The Cards won in 7 games.
  • 1984 — Detroit’s DHs (mostly Barbaro Garbey) had just a single in 17 ABs, 1 RBI, no runs, while San Diego’s Kurt Bevacqua hit .412 with 2 HRs, slugging .882. Detroit still won that Series in 5 games.

Got anything to add? Any personal memories or opinions of World Series DHs? It’s time to tear open a fresh pack of Big League Chew and get some chatter started out there!

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